After starting the season with an overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 15, the Arizona Coyotes headed out on the road for the first time and were looking to improve on last year’s abysmal 13-24-4 road record. However, the team’s struggles away from Gila River Arena would continue; the Coyotes started their week on Tuesday with a 7-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators and followed that up with a 5-2 defeat at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday night.
— SportsCentre (@SportsCentre) October 21, 2016
The Coyotes played better on Friday night against the Islanders but were undone by a third-period shorthanded goal by Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk as they lost their third consecutive game by the score of 3-2. On Sunday, Arizona finished out a winless week with yet another 3-2 loss in which the winning goal was scored by a defenseman in the third period — this time by Dan Girardi.
After visiting both the Islanders and Rangers last week, the Coyotes will remain in the Big Apple until Tuesday, when they’ll take on Taylor Hall and the Devils. New Jersey’s offense has struggled early this season, ranking last in the NHL in goals per game, but their defense has picked up the slack; the Devils are allowing just 1.8 goals per game, which is good for second in the league. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. ET (4:00 P.M. in Arizona).
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 23, 2016
On Thursday, the Coyotes will travel to Philadelphia to finish their road trip against the Flyers. Philadelphia has lost two of three since visiting the Coyotes on Oct. 15 but boasts the NHL’s third-ranked offense. Goaltenders Louis Domingue and Justin Peters will be tested. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. ET (4:00 P.M. in Arizona).
On Saturday night, the Coyotes finally will return back home to Gila River Arena for a matchup against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are off to a 3-2-0 start after Patrick Roy resigned as head coach just before the start of the season but will be playing the second half of a back-to-back against the Desert Dogs on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 P.M.
Doan, Vrbata Not Letting Age Slow Them Down
After leading the Coyotes in goals last season with 28, many figured that 40-year-old Shane Doan would regress back to the mean in 2016-17. However, Captain Coyote has other ideas. Through five games, Doan has a goal and two assists and is tied for second on the team in shots on goal.
#Coyotes Captain Shane Doan has surpassed D. Hawerchuk and is in sole possession of 2nd place on the franchise’s all-time assists list (551)
— Greg Dillard (@GregDillard) October 21, 2016
In addition, 35-year-old Radim Vrbata has picked up right where he left off in Arizona. He has three goals and two assists through five games and is currently the Coyotes’ leading scorer. After two years in British Columbia, Vrbata looks to be right at home in the desert.
Chychrun Making Case to Stay
When it was announced that 18-year-old defenseman Jakob Chychrun had made Arizona’s opening night roster, few thought he’d be able to make an immediate impact in the NHL. However, the youngster has quickly proven his doubters wrong. He has three points in four games and scored his first NHL goal on Thursday night against Carey Price.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 21, 2016
Chychrun has been able to reach this level of success despite playing just 16:17 per game, and has proven that he’s capable of playing a solid, two-way NHL game. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see head coach Dave Tippett keep the young Chychrun on the roster even after the nine-game “trial period” passes.
Duclair, Domi Among Slow Starters
There are quite a few Coyotes skaters that have gotten off to slow starts in 2016, but Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are arguably the most notable players who’ve struggled out of the gate. Domi has just two points in five games, while Duclair has been held off the scoresheet.
Coyotes in a nutshell: Max Domi 0-1-1, -4, Anthony Duclair 0-0-0, -4, G Louis Domingue 10 GA on 51 shots, 6.25 GAA.
— Rangers Report (@rangersreport) October 23, 2016
While it’s true that the Coyotes have received solid contributions thus far from Brad Richardson and Jordan Martinook, they’ll need some production from Domi and Duclair if they’re going to turn things around in the early going.
Stone, Connauton Return, Smith to IR
After starting the season with two of their defensemen on injured reserve, the Coyotes now have both of these players back. Kevin Connauton and Michael Stone both returned to the lineup last week and immediately improved Arizona’s blue line depth.
So Michael Stone will indeed make his return to the lineup, his first game since undergoing surgery on left ACL/MCL in April.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) October 21, 2016
Although the Coyotes defense has gotten healthier, their goaltending has suffered. Goaltender Mike Smith went down with a lower-body injury on Tuesday against Ottawa and is considered week-to-week.
Mike Smith update from Coyotes: week to week, Lower body. Coyotes say not severe. Will be reevaluated when team gets home
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 23, 2016
Forward Jamie McGinn is reportedly close to returning to the lineup, and could potentially play on Tuesday in New Jersey. With Stone and Connauton healthy, the Coyotes were forced to reshuffle their roster to make room for the two veterans. Zbynek Michalek was sent down to the Tucson Roadrunners, while Jarred Tinordi was waived and subsequently reassigned to the AHL after clearing. Additionally, the Coyotes recalled goaltender Justin Peters after Mike Smith went down.
Pacific Division Roundup
Through two weeks, the Edmonton Oilers sit atop the standings in the Pacific Division. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:
- Last week: 2-1-0
- Analysis: After one of the worst opening weeks in the NHL, the Ducks bounced back with two wins in three games. In a relatively weak Pacific Division, Anaheim has to be the early favorite to win the division title for the fifth consecutive season.
- Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – 4 assists
- This week: Tue at SJ, Wed vs NSH, Fri vs CBJ
- Last week: 1-2-0
- Analysis: The Flames picked up their first win of the season against the Sabres on Tuesday, but continued to struggle defensively; they allowed 11 goals in three games, and rank 29th in the NHL in goals against per game. Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson must get some help from the players in front of them if Calgary wishes to turn things around.
- Player of the week: Mark Giordano – Goal, 2 assists
- This week: Mon at CHI, Tue at STL, Fri vs OTT, Sun vs WSH
- Last week: 3-0-0
- Analysis: The Oilers have won three straight games, and allowed just one goal per game while doing so. After years of failed seasons and high draft picks, could this be the year Edmonton finally breaks through and becomes one of the NHL’s top teams?
- Player of the week: Cam Talbot – 3-0-0 record, 96 saves on 99 shots (.970 SV%)
- This week: Wed vs WSH, Fri at VAN, Sun vs OTT
#Oilers are 4-0 against Western Conference teams. It took them until December 4th (27th game) to win four games vs. West last year.
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) October 24, 2016
Los Angeles Kings
- Last week: 2-1-0
- Analysis: The Kings managed to win two of their three games last week, but the bigger news is the loss of goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who, like Jonathan Quick, was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. Peter Budaj will have to hold down the fort in Los Angeles or things could quickly get out of hand for Darryl Sutter’s squad.
- Player of the week: Tanner Pearson – 4 goals, assist, +4, 10 shots
- This week: Tue vs CBJ, Thu vs NSH, Sat at STL, Sun at CHI
Kings now with Peter Budaj and Jack Campbell as their goalies with Jonathan Quick out and Jeff Zatkoff now hurt.
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) October 22, 2016
San Jose Sharks
- Last week: 1-3-0
- Analysis: Like the Coyotes, the Sharks embarked upon a long road trip after winning their home opener, and similarly have run into some problems away from home; San Jose lost three of four last week and didn’t look great while doing so, as they were outscored by a 15-8 margin. They’ll return home for a three-game homestand starting on Tuesday.
- Player of the week: Joe Pavelski – 2 goals, 4 assists, +2
- This week: Tue vs ANA, Thu vs CBJ, Sat vs NSH
- Last week: 2-1-1
- Analysis: Vancouver was the last remaining unbeaten team in the NHL entering Saturday, but the Canucks suffered a pair of losses to the Kings and Ducks over the weekend to come back down to Earth a little bit. However, they’re still in good shape; at 4-1-1, they’re second in the Pacific.
- Player of the week: Jacob Markstrom – 2-0-1 record, 77 saves on 82 shots (.939 SV%)
- This week: Tue vs OTT, Fri vs EDM, Sat vs WSH
After a horrendous week, the Coyotes will need to bounce back and figure out a way to turn their season around. At 1-4-0, they’re in trouble early and will need to get things going before they fall too far behind in the Pacific Division.
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.